Seriously Sticky

As I mentioned in my first Festivus post, I wanted to make something savory to go alongside the eggnog cupcakes I made for our party. I decided to check out Brown Eyed Baker’s blog, since my friend and baking aficionado, Serial Baker, often uses bits and pieces of BEB’s yummy recipes in her creations. So, after wanting to make pretty much everything I stumbled upon, I settled on the Italian Gougeres, mainly because I was able to find all of the ingredients at my local italian market.

I’d be lying if I said the thought of making my very own dough wasn’t intimidating. Sure, I consider myself to be somewhat of a foodie, and I like to make different things, but as someone who’s still basically a novice in the kitchen, things like homemade dough, make me nervous. I decided to go with it anyway, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! Because I know nothing about dough, specifically pasta dough, I had no idea what consistency I was going for.

I made two batches, and the second was definitely much better than the first. Due to my lack of a rolling pin, I didn’t get nearly as many as I probably should have out of the dough I made. They also weren’t very pretty – they were more like big balls of dough with cheese baked in, due to my lack of skills. Thankfully, though, our friends aren’t deterred (too much) by the look of food, and the people that did try it, liked it! I definitely think I would have done a way better job if I had known what pasta dough is supposed to feel like. It was definitely sticky and messy, and I wound up adding quite a bit of flour to keep it all together, and not on my fingers.

The romano cheese added a nice bite, and because it isn’t really a melty cheese, it was nice to have it baked into the dough, instead of being more like a mozzarella stick or fried ravioli (not that there’s anything wrong with those!).

So, whether or not you have any dough making experience, if you’re looking for some cheesey bread, I suggest these Italian Gougeres. And if for nothing else, you really should just head over to Brown Eyed Baker and ogle all the delicious things there… I want them all.

Italian Gougeres via Brown Eyed Baker
– Makes about 25 –

Ingredients for Dough:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup flour, plus more if needed (dough should be soft and elastic)

Ingredients for filling:
2 eggs, beaten
12 ounces (¾ pound) grated Romano
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat, or spray with a non-stick baking spray.
2. Prepare the dough as you would a typical pasta dough, with a mound of flour with a well in the center. Into the middle break the eggs, add the water and oil, and mix together with a fork until combined and then begin incorporating the flour a little at a time. Once the dough comes together as a shaggy mass, knead it by hand until you have a soft, smooth, elastic dough. Add more flour or water, a small bit at a time, until that consistency is reached. Cover and set aside.
3. To make the filling, combine the eggs with the Romano cheese and black pepper in a medium bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.
4. Roll out the pasta dough to about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling two inches apart across half of the rolled-out dough. When finished, fold the unused half the dough over the filling. Press around each mound of filling to release air and cut into squares with a knife or pasta roller. If using a knife, seal the edges with a fork. Place pigu on the baking sheet.
5. With a fork, beat together the egg and water and brush the tops of the pigu with the egg wash.
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

A Festivus for the rest of us!

On Saturday, my fiancé and I hosted our second annual (he’s been throwing one for years) Festivus party! If you’re unfamiliar with the origins of Festivus, Google it, and hopefully a clip of the Seinfeld episode is on YouTube. I grew up watching Seinfeld with my parents, and they to this day watch the re-runs after work while preparing dinner. Most people I’ve come across either love or hate Seinfield, but both my family and my fiancé’s family are fans.

Last year was unfortunately kind of a flop, as the first snow storm of the year rolled in, and we wound up only having two guests! This year, with no reports of potential snow, I knew I needed to make sure we had enough goodies. The party was more than just a Festivus celebration, it was also the first time most of our friends were seeing our new place! Needless to say, the pressure was on.

I always make some type of cupcakes. This time, instead of making full sized, I realized they would likely go faster if I made mini’s instead. I like to make them seasonal, or at the very least boozy. While I left out the booze this time, you could definitely add it in if you want, since I made eggnog cupcakes, courtesy of Southern Living! Based on the recipe I used, I wound up with 60 mini cupcakes. Plenty for all of the party-goers, and enough to bring into work on Monday as well. In addition to the cupcakes, I wanted to make something savory. I had a bunch of recipes to choose from, but wound up settling on Brown Eyed Baker’s Italian Gougeres, coming in a later post.

But back to the cupcakes – the cake was perfectly moist and just the right amount of eggnog. I actually tasted eggnog for the very first time after I mixed it into the batter. There was some leftover, so I decided to take a swig. I guess it’s a good thing I liked it, since I was already committed to 60 mini cupcakes with it. The frosting, though, was a bit runny. Even though it had cream cheese, butter, and confectioner’s sugar, I couldn’t get it thick enough to allow me to really do any decorating (I added A LOT of extra sugar). It wound up almost drying on the cakes though with a nice sheen, so they looked okay. But I would have liked to do something a little more snazzy!

I definitely think you could add some dark rum to the cake and/or frosting mixture to give it that boozy kick that I’m such a fan of. Nothing quite like a festive drink in cupcake form!

Eggnog Cupcakes via Southern Living
– makes 60 mini cupcakes, or about 24 regular cupcakes –

Cake Ingredients:
1 (16oz.) package pound cake mix
1 1/4 cups eggnog
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat all ingredients together at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Increase speed to medium, and beat 2 minutes. Pour into lined cupcake pan, filling about 3/4 .
2. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, about 10-15 minutes.

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
1/4 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting Directions:
1. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with eggnog, beginning and ending with sugar and beating at low speed. Add freshly grated nutmeg and vanilla extract; beat until smooth.
3. Spread over cupcakes.